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China to Stick With Coal Despite Desert Energy Plan

China has seen a 'jaw-dropping surge' in solar and wind power capacity, but its outdated power grid needs improvements, experts say.
China could supply a third of its power consumption from renewable sources by 2030, but it needs new energy storage systems to get its solar and wind power on to local grids. This image shows workers checking solar PV modules in Chuzhou, Anhui province. File photo: AFP.


China reaffirmed its intention to build 450 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind power generation capacity on the Gobi Desert and other arid regions but insisted that high-efficiency coal-fired power plants were the cornerstone of its energy plans.

He Lifeng, director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said coal plants and ultra-high voltage transmission lines are required to support the steady operation of the grid system amid large scale renewable power installation.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has pledged to bring his country’s total wind and solar capacity to at least 1,200 GW and to cap its carbon emission to a peak by 2030.

He said China had installed 306 GW of solar power capacity and 328 GW wind capacity by the end of 2021. The construction of about 100 GW of solar power capacity is already under way in the desert area.

Coal-fired power utilities can generate a stable power supply to renewables, which can fluctuate with weather conditions.

He’s comment echoed a statement from vice premier Han Zheng this week that China should give full play to “coal’s basic guaranteeing role in energy supplies”.

The NDRC said in its 2022 work plan issued on Saturday that China will “continue to leverage the peak-shaving and basic supporting role of traditional energy, especially coal and coal-fired power.”


  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell



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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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